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A tale of two foundations

Bill Clinton displays corporate code for LGBTQ inclusion.

“I’m happy to talk about the Clinton Foundation,” said Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate.

But she didn’t have very long to talk about it, under debate rules, and of course she talked about the Trump Foundation as well. That’s a shame. The Clinton Foundation has had tremendous impact helping to rebuild stable societies in strife-torn African nations like Rwanda and Liberia, recovering from short but catastrophic (in Rwanda) or brutal long-running civil wars (Liberia).

For example, when AIDS was ravaging parts of Africa in 2002, local governments were helpless in the face of the epidemic. The Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) found that “only 200,000 people were receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS in low and middle income countries, with medicines that cost over $10,000 per person per year.”

A decade later, the foundation reported, “more than eight million people are receiving treatment and CHAI has helped reduce the cost of medicines to around $100 to $200 per person per year in many countries.” 

Updated to 2016, the figure is more than 11.5 million people worldwide who have access to life-saving anti-retrovirals. Among the patients the local clinics can reach, 80 per cent of expectant mothers affected by AIDS now give birth to babies who are infection-free.

A public foundation with a $250 million budget and hundreds of employees, the Clinton Foundation runs its own programs, unlike many other foundations. Rather than offer grants to other organizations, it works with local organizations to offer programs and delivery systems in five major initiatives, addressing Climate Change, Economic Development, Girls and Women, Global Health and Health and Wellness (mainly US programs). Many financial reports are available online, along with descriptions of their work.

“Our rural development work has helped more than 150,000 farmers in East Africa dramatically increase their yields and their incomes through better tools and training,” according to Craig Minassian, writing for the foundation.

“In the US...  20 million kids in 35,000 U.S. schools, in every state, (who) now have access to healthier food and more physical activity options,” he wrote. They’ve also distributed 835,000 children’s books to families in under-served communities.  

In contrast, the privately owned Donald J. Trump Foundation was recently issued a Notice of Violation and ordered to cease and desist the way it conducts business. 

“The New York attorney general disclosed Monday that it ordered Donald Trump’s personal charity to cease fundraising immediately after determining that the foundation was violating state law by soliciting donations without proper authorization,” David A. Fahrenthold wrote in the Washington Post.

The AG charges that the foundation never registered as “a charity soliciting money,” although it has subsisted entirely on other people’s money since 2008.

Since it was never registered for fundraising, the Trump Foundation’s financial returns have largely escaped public scrutiny. Recent Washington Post stories have raised serious concerns about how the Trump Foundation’s estimated $600,000 endowment is spent.

“Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses,” Fahrenthold revealed last September. “Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against 'self-dealing' — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.”

In one case, Trump settled a dispute with a Florida municipality with a $100,000 donation to a local veterans’ charity – from the Trump Foundation. In 2007, he paid $20,000 for a six-foot-tall portrait of himself, for his resort. In 2014, he bought another portrait of himself at a charity auction, this time for only $10,000. Both times, he charged it to his Foundation. As Hillary Clinton asked during the debate, “Who does that?” 

People know about the Trump Foundation because it’s outrageous, but really, the Attorney-General is saying, there is so much more to learn about how many rules it’s broken. People know about the Clinton Foundation because it’s effective, not just because Fox News and the alt-right have made arrogant allegations about how it operates.

“It gives less than 10 per cent of its revenue in grants!” somebody quoted back to me at the bar – which is technically correct, but irrelevant.

Similarly, op-ed pieces have complained that the Clintons are friends with a Bangladeshi bank official, who has contributed to the foundation, and asked for their help in dealing with his government.  The Fox version is very different from the headline in Dawn, India’s national newspaper. “Bangladesh government's religious body targets Nobel winner [Muhammad] Yunus,” reads the headline on an October 2013 story.

“DHAKA: After being accused of 'sucking blood' from the poor, Bangladesh's only Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus faces a new state-backed hate campaign seeking to paint him as unIslamic and a spreader of homosexuality,” Dawn reported. 

“Following years of attempts to discredit his legacy as a pioneer of micro-finance — since copied the world over as a development tool — the hounding has turned more personal and dangerous. The perceived crime of the 73-year-old was to sign a joint statement along with three other Nobel laureates in April 2012 criticising the prosecution of gay people in Uganda....”

For this crime, the Bangladeshi government removed Harvard-trained Yunus as president of the Grameen People’s Bank, which he founded.  Logically enough, he asked everyone he knew to help him get his bank back – including Hillary Clinton.

How unfortunate, that the average American knows so little about what the Clinton Foundation actually does. Donald Trump’s spin sticks to ideas even though Politico reporters calculated that he lies every three minutes and 15 seconds.

“Donald Trump is the biggest liar ever to be a party’s nominee for president,” reported Politico. “Trump can’t go 5 minutes without lying.”  Many of those lies have been about the Clinton Foundation. 

Meanwhile, Trump brags he’s “smart” to avoid paying taxes to support the government he wants to lead, and he calls Hillary a “nasty woman” for pointing it out.  He leads his rallies in chanting – with crossed arms – “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

But when the NY Attorney-General starts investigating the Trump Foundation – when women keep coming forward to testify about his aggressive sexual behaviour – Donald Trump may well be the candidate headed to prison.    

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